Current Studies

The SMILe Lab at the University of Utah is currently recruiting subjects for the following studies.
Check below to see if you are eligible to participate.

STUDY 1: Oxytocin, Reward, & the Brain

What is this project about?

A hormone named ‘oxytocin’ has been shown to have positive effects on some social behaviors and is thought to shape the way we perceive social rewards. In this study, we want to understand how oxytocin can change the way social and non-social information is processed in the brain.

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone produced naturally in the brain. Sometimes called the "cuddle hormone”, oxytocin has been shown to have positive effects on social behaviors, like generosity, trust, and pair bonding. Recent research shows oxytocin may have stress reducing effects and may shape the way rewards are processed. This study will explore how oxytocin affects reward by using a non-invasive brain imaging technique called fMRI.

What happens during the study?

There are two phases in this study:

  • An initial visit lasting several hours where you will be asked to complete questionnaires and undergo a clinical interview.
  • Two brain imaging sessions lasting several hours where you will be asked to take an intranasal medication (either oxytocin or placebo)

What will qualified volunteers receive?

A free picture of your brain and cash compensation.

Can I participate?

You may be eligible for this study if you are:

  • Between 18 - 45 years old
  • Have not been diagnosed with any serious medical illness

If you are interested in participating and meet the criteria above, please contact us at 385-645-FMRI to see if you may be eligible.

How do I participate?

Please contact us at the Social Motivation and Imaging Laboratory (SMILE) at: 385-645-FMRI or email us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have and determine your eligibility for the study.

STUDY 2: Oxytocin & Alcohol Use Disorder

What is this project about?

While first having prosocial effects, chronic alcohol use can bring about changes in behavior resulting in social withdrawal and isolation. A hormone named ‘oxytocin’ has been shown to have positive effects on some social behaviors and is currently being considered as a potential treatment for substance use disorder. In this study, we want to understand how oxytocin can change the way social and non-social information is processed in the brain.

What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a hormone produced naturally in the brain. Sometimes called the "cuddle hormone”, oxytocin has been shown to have positive effects on social behaviors, like generosity, trust, and pair bonding. Recent research shows oxytocin may have stress reducing effects and may shape the way rewards are processed. This study will explore how oxytocin affects reward by using a non-invasive brain imaging technique called fMRI.

What happens during the study?

There are three phases in this study:

  • An initial visit lasting several hours where you will be asked to complete questionnaires and undergo a clinical interview.
  • Two brain imaging sessions lasting several hours where you will be asked to take an intranasal medication (either oxytocin or placebo)
  • Follow-up surveys 30, 60, and 90 days after scanning

What will qualified volunteers receive?

A free picture of your brain and cash compensation.

Can I participate?

You may be eligible for this study if you are:

  • Between 18 - 45 years old
  • Have had a problem with alcohol use and have recently stopped drinking
  • Have not been diagnosed with any other serious medical illness

If you are interested in participating and meet the criteria above, take our quick survey to see if you may be eligible.

How do I participate?

You can take our quick survey to see if you may be eligible to participate. Or if you prefer, you can also contact us at the Social Motivation and Imaging Laboratory (SMILE) at: 385-645-FMRI or email us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have and determine your eligibility for the study.

STUDY 3: Sex Hormones Study

What is this project about?

In this study, we will explore whether hormonal changes which occur during the menstrual cycle influences the way the brain responds to rewards. We are also examining whether regular alcohol consumption can impact these responses. Some research indicates that rewarding stimuli, particularly social stimuli, may be perceived differently depending on levels of circulating sex hormones like estradiol and progesterone. These sex hormone levels change throughout each menstrual cycle. Our goal is to examine how social and non-social rewards are processed over the course of the menstrual cycle, how sex hormone levels may impact reward processing, and explore whether regular alcohol consumption can influence this activity.

What happens during the study?

There are three study visits:

  • An initial visit lasting several hours where you will be asked to complete questionnaires and undergo a clinical interview.
  • Two brain imaging sessions lasting several hours where you will be asked to play computer games

In between visits, we will have you track your menstrual cycles (over two cycles) by using Clearblue® ovulation tests and by filling out surveys. This will help us better understand how your menstrual cycle affects your behavior and to help us schedule your MRI scans.

What will qualified volunteers receive?

A free picture of your brain and cash compensation.

Can I participate?

You may be eligible for this study if you are:

  • Female
  • Between 18 - 40 years old
  • Right-handed
  • Have regular menstrual cycles
  • Are not taking hormonal contraceptives
  • Are not currently pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing

If you are interested in participating and meet the criteria above, take our quick survey to see if you may be eligible.

How do I participate?

You can take our quick survey to see if you may be eligible to participate. Or if you prefer, you can also contact us at the Social Motivation and Imaging Laboratory (SMILE) at: 385-645-FMRI or email us and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have and determine your eligibility for the study.